Patiently waiting has never been one of my strong suits. I grew up during a time when every box of kid’s cereal had a special offer on the back. When you gathered enough box tops, you filled out the form on the back of the cereal box, waited 4-6 weeks and the special space ring (or other trinkets) would come in the mail. More often than not, I would talk Mom into letting me empty out a brand new box of cereal into her Tupperware just so I could send the form in quicker. With great anticipation and hope, I sealed all the “forms” into an envelope, put a stamp on it and ran it down to the post office.
I only had one problem. I did not believe that it would actually take 4-6 weeks to receive my prize. Waiting that long was more than I could bare! So, beginning the day after I mailed the request, I would drop by the post office every day after school and ask Elvin Zeman, the Postmaster, if my package had come yet. I mean every day. Although Elvin was always friendly and courteous, I have to believe that when he saw me coming, he must have thought, “Oh no! Not that Schuneman kid again.” At first, Elvin tried to reason with me about actually expecting it to take 4-6 weeks. Finally, Elvin resigned to just saying, “No, not today!”
Waiting just seemed like such a waste of time. Action is what matters! My impatience transferred over to my spiritual life as well. When I prayed, I expected God to move! If He didn’t, I came to the conclusion that He needed me to repeat the prayer request every day until I got the answer I wanted. I not only told Him about my situation, but I also made very strong suggestions on how He could fix the problem, pronto! Why did God make me wait when He had the ability to act immediately? Why were there times when the answer God gave had nothing to do with how I had it planned?
In Numbers 9:8, we read a very important principle for our spiritual life. The passage reads, “Moses answered them, “Wait until I find out what the LORD commands concerning you.” As Americans, we live by the motto, “Don’t just stand there! Do something!” How did that work for you? However long it takes, it is better to wait for God’s direction than to carry out our own action plan. Even in his Lamentations, the prophet Jeremiah writes, “I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion: therefore I will wait for him” (Lamentations 3:24). A major key to our walk with Christ is realizing that He must lead us according to His timing, not ours. I have to trust Him even when it seems nothing is happening.
Maybe a small Greek lesson would help. There are two Greek words for “time.” They are chronos and kairos. We know a great deal about chronos. We live most of our lives according to a chronos time frame. That is the reason we wear watches! We have to know when something is going to happen. From the time we wake up, our days are full of scheduled appointments and activities that must be kept. We want to know things in chronological order. We want our teens to be home before 11 p.m. If they are late, they risk being grounded. Everything is measured on how your time is spent. The faster you can do something, the better. No one remembers the runner who came in second at the Boston Marathon. Being first makes us a winner.
Kairos is God’s timing. God doesn’t wear a watch! The Creator of the universe sees the bigger picture. He knows what we need to learn in our life and will patiently teach us according to His time schedule. Good news! There won’t be clocks or watches in Heaven either. God’s timing is always perfect. At just the right time, God answers. It is not always what we had planned, because often the worst thing God could do is give us what we want. Our perspective often ends in “tunnel vision” where there is only one solution to our problem. God always sees what is best for us.
One of the most important waiting periods is found in Acts 1:4. There we read, “On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.” The disciples are on the “Most Wanted” list for both the Jewish religious leaders and the Roman army. I am sure there first reaction would be to run away from Jerusalem rather than spend ten days waiting in Jerusalem. Ten days is a very long time when you are in enemy territory. Why did Jesus command them to wait for those ten days? Here are just a few of the reasons:
- The disciples needed to be emptied of themselves. The repeated point of contention with the disciples was who was the greatest disciple. Even as Jesus was preparing to share the Lord’s Supper, the disciples had been arguing over who was Number One in Jesus’ eyes. When James and John requested the right and left side of Jesus’ throne (Mark 10:35-41), we read, “When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John” (Mark 10:41). Why were they upset? James and John had made the request first. All the disciples were thinking about requesting the same thing.
- The disciples needed to be united in their passion for Christ. In Acts 2:1, we read, “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.” The disciples’ hearts had to be united together before they could change their world. Competition had to die. The disciples would stand beside each other and willing to die for Christ and each other if necessary. The 120 people who entered that room would bravely walk out of that room as one. Nothing that the Enemy could do would drive a wedge between them.
- The disciples needed to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The events of the book of Acts cannot be explained except by the events that happened on the Day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit, the very Breath of God filled the room and saturated the lives of the disciples. With the Holy Spirit living within them, the disciples were empowered to go out and change their world. Those who entered the room in fear walked out with boldness and courage. When Peter preached his first sermon, the Holy Spirit began to move beyond what Peter could have hoped for.
Is God making you wait right now? Please know that He is at work in your life even when you can’t see anything happening. Jesus Christ is working on the details that are necessary to prepare the way for His answer. There are things that He is trying to teach you during this time. Don’t rush through it. I have learned to ask, “What are you trying to teach me Lord?” You may not be ready for His answer. There may be others whose hearts need to be soften. There may be events that need to happen first. Whatever the reason, waiting is not wasting time. It is learning to trust the Lord completely and obey Him no matter what.
Let me share a short testimony. On April 26, 2011 (Easter Sunday), I left the pastoral ministry. I had always planned on pastoring for 40 years and I only made it to 33 years. However, I knew that I was as called to leave the pastorate as I was to begin the pastorate. Of course, I fully believed that God would take care of me and my family by providing a job immediately. We moved May 7, 2011. I applied for a Corporate Chaplain position on May 9, 2011 and waited for a call. I began volunteering at the company with the present Chaplain. The first day I met him, he said, “I am looking for someone who is a little older, because I need them to be experienced. I need them to be of Wesleyan background, because I believe we will work better together. Finally, I need them to have experienced the loss of a loved one.” He had been divorced, but had known personal loss. I met all three criteria! I thought, “Wow Lord, you didn’t waste any time. Good work!”
I didn’t get that job. Nor any of the others I applied for. In fact, I went a year without any job, any insurance and any salary. I understood the first summer. I needed to write my daughter Jennie’s story. I needed to relive all the lessons she had taught me through her life and her death. I filled in four Sundays at a church and enjoyed it. Another three months went by with no doors opening. In January 2012, I was able to do an interim pastorate at Oklahoma City Trinity Church of the Nazarene. I never have had that much fun pastoring! No Board or committee meetings, no one who disliked me (because they didn’t have enough time) and working with some great people. I found myself enjoying pastoring again. For four months, I had the greatest freedom preaching, because my library was all stored away. I just listened to what God was teaching me. Maybe I was supposed to go back into the pastorate.
Someone else was called to the church (as it should have been) and once again I found myself preaching my final sermon on Easter Sunday 2012. During my time at Trinity, I did re-connect with former pastor I had known 35 years before. Duane Snavely and I pastorated on the same district at the same time. I enjoyed catching up with an old friend and was glad he was enjoying his work as a Hospice Chaplain for Mercy Hospital. Again, I found myself waiting for what was supposed to happen next. I tried forcing some doors open, but I ended up once again waiting.
Little did I know that a PRN (on-call) Chaplain position would open up where Duane worked. I remember sitting in Duane’s office when his boss, Johnna Rupe came in. Duane suggested me for the PRN position. When Johnna came back with the applications she had received, mine was not in there (I later found out I had been turned down for two positions). Because she trusted Duane, Johnna set up an interview. I got the PRN job. I still didn’t have any health insurance, but at least I was able to find meaningful work. I fell in love with all the members of the Hospice team. I found the ministry to be very meaningful. After about a year, I was able to go part-time at work. Now I had health insurance. Additional work opened up as a part-time chaplain at Mercy Hospital Logan County plus heading up a grief support group. God provided for our financial needs and enabled us to stay healthy.
Why do I tell you that story? It is because during those first three years of “retirement,” I did not seem God working at all. What was taking God so long? Tomorrow, I start working full-time at Mercy Hospice. I love the people I work with. Duane is going to work part-time so I still have a source to answer questions. I finished a second book in April that I couldn’t have completed if I was working full-time any earlier. If God can help me enjoying getting up at 7 a.m., I couldn’t have asked for God to give a better answer to my prayer. When there was no hope in sight, God taught me to trust Him in a way much deeper than ever before. When I served as Interim Pastor, I found healing from the wounds I carried and found peace about my decision to retire. When I met Duane, God used him to open up the doors for me to find full-time employment. It has been four years, two months and twelve days between full-time jobs, but the time hasn’t been wasted. Even when I couldn’t see Him, God was working behind the scenes in kairos time.
Are you waiting on the Lord today? Does it seem that God has forgotten you or is moving way too slow? Please know that God does some of His best molding of our lives while we are waiting.
Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. Psalm 27:14